And While We’re on the Subject of Wisconsin Beer…

Written by Paul Mulshine for The Star Ledger

Coincidentally, before I posted that item about Governor Scott Walker’s role in rigging the beer market, I happened to have picked up a six-pack of Pangaea Lillja Argosy IPA.

It was a good  India Pale Ale, perhaps my favorite style of ale. Best of all it cost a mere $6.50, a good price these days.

If Walker gets his way, such small breweries will have a tough time making a go of it. Bottling and packaging costs about four times as much as the actual brewing process and it’s hard for a small brewer to make a profit if he can’t  control his distribution.

I’ve interviewed many a microbrewer over the years and all complain that the toughest part of the job is getting wholesalers to push their product.

The bill the Walker administration is pushing would prohibit microbreweries from getting wholesale distribution licenses, thereby creating an artificial monopoly for the big distributors.

It turns out this is getting a lot of coverage in the blogosphere.  Here’s another entry:

Deb Carey is not happy. “I’m so pissed off I can barely see,” the founder of New Glarus Brewing Company says about the changes to beer wholesale licensing that the Joint Finance Committee approved Thursday.

According to Carey, the action by the JFC represents another milestone in state government’s long history of providing favors to large beer distributors, often at the expense of microbrewers like her.

Current state law severely restricts the options brewers have to distribute their beer. Only breweries that produce less than 50,000 barrels of beer per year are allowed to sell their beer directly to retailers. All others must contract with wholesalers for distribution.

Worried that perhaps microbrewers were operating in too free a market, legislative Republicans have proposed even more restrictions on the beer distribution business. Although the motion approved by JFC will now allow microbrewers to distribute their own beer to retailers, but it will forbid them from holding wholesalers licenses, which, as some articles have indicated, means microbrewers will not be able to band together to distribute beer.

And what would Walker-era legislation be if it didn’t offer more power to state government? The legislation also takes the power of licensing of wholesalers away from municipalities and puts them under the control of the state Department of Revenue.

As you may have noticed, I love to fantasize about how the country would be run under the best possible of circumstances – if I were king. Well if I were king, state legislatures would still be permitted to pass laws. But anyone voting in favor of a bill that advances a private interest over the public interest would be clapped in chains in front of the statehouse to face suitable punishment by those adversely affected by their action. In this case, beer lovers would be permitted to pour beer over the heads of every one of these hacks. Not good beer, of course. They’d be doused in the swill foisted off on the public by the big brewers who have bought their votes. “Politician drowns in Miller beer” – that’s the sort of headline

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: